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Teamwork spells success for Kerl and Banas at Lancaster

Drag racing teammates Jeff Kerl and Keith Banas held a coin flip to see who would get the opportunity to gather points during Mod ET eliminations Friday night at Lancaster Speedway and Dragway.

Kerl won the coin flip and made it to the third round before losing. He and Banas now lead the team of Ryan Ricketson and Mason Fix by a healthy 40 points entering Lancaster's points finale Sept. 28.

The concept of drivers having an opportunity to run as teammates and each contribute toward their team's point total throughout the season is unique to drag racing. This is not allowed in stock car racing.

On each night of drag racing at Lancaster, while all teammates can compete in eliminations, only one driver can gather points toward their team's season point total. The designated driver notifies officials before eliminations by displaying the team's point number on their car.

During the season, some teams almost exclusively use the same driver to earn points while other teams split the duties more often. Drag racers also can compete for a point championship without a teammate.

Competitors at Lancaster said key factors in determining who will run for the points depends on a number of factors, including one driver not being able to attend a race, mechanical problems with one car, psychological considerations, keeping competitors guessing on who will be the point driver and, in the case of Kerl and Banas, a coin flip on occasion.

This season, Kerl and Banas often shared the point-earning responsibilities, each contributing to their success. Kerl drives a 1968 Camaro SS and Banas drives a 1972 Chevelle.

"I've done fairly well this season," Kerl said. "I've had three wins and four finals. It's always a tough class. Keith has run for the points several times this year instead of me, and he has gotten enough points to keep us in the lead. He's been a great partner this year.

"At this point of the year, we've been flipping a coin to see who runs for the points. It's a tough gamble because you never know who's going to do better, but you hope to pick the right person. We've both been here every Friday, so we've both raced pretty much for the points about the same amount of times throughout the whole year."

Banas ran for points one week when Kerl broke a transmission before the race.

"It helped out in that situation, so I'm very grateful that I picked the right partner this year," Kerl said. "I have three championships here in my career, so hopefully it will soon be four."

Banas, who has made two finals this season, winning once, is equally pleased with his team's effort.

"This year, we've just been kind of having really good communication even during the week on how we felt our cars have been and driving conditions," Banas said. "Either it's come down to a coin flip or I've had some car issues at the beginning of the year and he took care of it. I think what has really made us successful this year is that we don't really let things get into our heads. Every week is a brand new week. Because of that, it keeps us focused.

"Our season is really long, sometimes 21 or 22 point races, and anything can happen. I think that when you have a good partner when it's happened to all of us, when you're not just seeing the starting light really well or you just get snake bitten where you go out first round, to be able to go to your teammate and say I'm not feeling it gives an opportunity to the team to let the teammate run for points rather then letting a whole season die.

"Our team is really a more legitimate team because it's not just one guy but both of us sharing the points gathering. Also, while one of us runs for the points each night, the other can hunt the other drivers down and try to beat them to help us in the point standings. It's made it really exciting this year."

Winners at Lancaster on Friday: Clay Ricketson, 7.50 and Mod ET; Keith Cleveland, Top ET; Mike Swinarski, Top 8; Mike Peters, Bikes/Sleds; Mason Fix, Street; Pat Boniferro, TNT.

Szewczyk returns home

Dan Szewczyk was involved in a serious drag racing accident at Lancaster on Aug. 4, and after remaining at the Erie County Medical Center since then, he was released Friday and is now home continuing recovery and rehabilitation. The drag racing community at Lancaster expressed happiness Friday upon learning that Szewczyk was home and offered well wishes for his continuing recovery.

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